COVID Vaccine: The second shot update!
Well today is a full day since I had the second dose of my COVID vaccine. I promised honesty and transparency so here it is, the second dose isn’t as smooth as the first. So we’re going to go over why that is, what my issues have been, and why it’s still very much worth it.
Yesterday I thought the worst that was going to happen was another sore arm. Literally the only side effect from the shot I had all day was soreness. I did work, I built a few things, I was pretty freaking productive. I figured that would be the end of it, then when I went to bed and my head hit the pillow, I knew I was wrong. The side effects had basically just started at that point, so roughly 12 hours after the shot.
At first I was cold, then hot, then cold, if you’ve ever been sick you know the feeling. I was also unable to get comfortable in bed. Restless would be a good way to describe it and again it felt a lot like being sick. My nose was somewhat plugged (that one could be the weather) and I kept waking up in the middle of the night feeling like I was cold even though I was borderline sweating. By morning I felt worn down, tired, achy, and just all around not having a good time.
Then the headache started. I get awful headaches, so much so that I’ve got special medicine to take when it happens, but that tends to knock me out so I try to avoid it when I have to work. I also experienced nausea and more than once today I felt like I wanted to vomit. As of this writing I have not, but that could change I’m still going through it all. One of the people I talked to, our lab coordinator said she had the same experience, but almost exactly 24 hours after they started, she felt better, so I suspect by this time tomorrow or even later tonight I should start feeling better.
Now onto the why! Why did I experience side effects with the second shot, but not the first? Well the answer is pretty straightforward if we look at what we are trying to accomplish with giving a second dose. The first dose shows your body what the “key” or spike protein (metaphor from yesterday) looks like and because the body has never seen it before it takes a minute to react to it. This is why COVID is so dangerous, because unlike the flu (which is also dangerous, but to a different degree) or the common cold, your body hasn’t seen COVID before or anything like COVID so it doesn’t know how to fight it.
With the vaccine we’re showing the body this “key” to make sure it knows that when something enters the body that has that same “key” it knows how to fight it. So think of the first dose as an introduction to the “key” or spike protein. The ramp up to attacking it is slower and probably not very pronounced and this is why we needed a second shot. The second shot causes your immune system to kick into gear and get rid of the invader (in this case the “key”).
So really the second shot should cause SOME sort of typical response from the body like when you normally get sick. Runny nose, aches, chills, etc. Those chills are probably a mild fever, your body increases the temperature to make it less habitable for the virus. This also explains why we space out the vaccines the way we do. If we gave them too close together the body wouldn’t fully have learned how to fight the virus or rather it would still be learning from the last time it saw it. If we give the second dose too late, your body may forget that it had even dealt with the virus in the past at all since it was a one time deal.
Basically the reaction I’m having is because my body now knows that the “key” is bad and it knows how to deal with it. Interestingly enough my reaction isn’t typical! I know, I’m as surprised as you may be. I mean average is just so… common. Roughly 40% of people experience headaches, but only 14% deal with chills, and a tiny 1.2% experienced vomiting. While I’m technically not in the vomiting category yet, I may be very soon since I really do feel nauseous (read more).
Now why tell you all of this? Well informed consent is a thing for one, but also because it really is worth it. While I will continue to wear a mask, wash my hands, and social distance, should I find myself infected I have a 95% chance of not even really noticing. People talk about the death rate from COVID-19 and yes it is fairly low, but that’s still high enough to kill roughly 389,000 in the US alone. Death isn’t the only metric either, people experience “long COVID,” breathing problems that may be life-long, heart problems because the virus attacks the heart, which is actually somewhat common for viruses to do (read more). Far less common for viruses to do though it attack (or at least be found) in the brain, which COVID-19 manages to cross the blood brain barrier and weasle its way into the brain as well (read more).
We’re talking possibly life-long symptoms that impact quality of life and we are walking into a future where a whole lot of people are going to be dealing with these problems long after the virus has been beaten. The transient effects of the second shot are nothing compared to the untold damages COVID-19 could do to the body. After this is all over we’re going to learn a whole lot about just how badly this virus hurt us, again death rate is NOT the only metric. I’ll take the shot, I would do it again and again if I had to and it’s my hope that being honest about it makes you feel less scared and when the time comes for you to get vaccinated you’ll go in knowing what to expect and think it’s worth it too!